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REVIEW: Rocco's does comfort exactly right
Restaurant Character: Rocco's is a warm, inviting, family restaurant with a menu full of Italian-American standards and some surprisingly diverse specials.
Rating total: 4.5 out of 5 forks
Food: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Ambiance: 4 out of 5 stars
Service: 5 out of 5 stars
Address: 3878 Maizeland Road
Contact: 574-1426, roccoscolorado.com
Hours: Open for lunch at 11 Tuesday- Friday, open at noon on Saturday, closed Sunday and Monday; dinner from 4 p.m. Sunday-Tuesday.
Dinner: Closed Mon; 4 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday
Entrees: $7.95-$11.50 lunch; $11.50-$22.95 dinner
Alcohol: Wine and beer
Credit cards: Yes
Vegetarian options: Yes, pizza and pasta
Gluten-free options: Yes, pizza, pasta and dessert
What's online as of Jan. 9, 2013:
- 80 percent of 48 voters "liked it" on Urban Spoon
- 4 out of 5 stars based on 23 reviews on Yelp
- Menu and photos on Facebook; search Rocco's Italian Restaurant
- No violations were marked after an August, 2012, inspection by the El Paso County Health Department
January is the cold, dark heart of winter. The frigid air and short days make us crave warmth and comfort, and there's no better place to find that than Rocco's Italian Restaurant.
The brick walls, padded booths and red-checked tablecloths may say "kitsch" to some, but the food tastes like there's an Italian Grandma in the kitchen. Rocco's is the sort of place where the woman waiting on your table might be the same one who made the incredible Italian Cream Cake ($6.95 and worth every penny), or the waiter might compliment your sister on devouring every trace of Alfredo sauce on her plate. (She didn't lick the plate, she says.) And the newly expanded menu offers a host of options for the gluten-free crowd, including pizza and pasta, Parmagiana dishes and a decadent chocolate torte.
Craving a break, I met some friends at Rocco's for lunch. We started with minestrone soup ($2.95/$4.50), which is a beef broth accented with tomato, carrots, celery and peas, and filled with small pasta and broken homemades. What are homemades? Only the best spaghetti you'll ever eat, and it's made on the premises. It's delightful, slightly thicker and chewier than the dried variety we all have in our cupboards.
The bread basket has a warm loaf of soft white bread, perfect for mopping up the last bits of soup. The aforementioned Alfredo sauce is creamy, cheesy and rich without being cloying.
Also for lunch was the Italian Hot Beef Sandwich ($8.95), which is simply the best beef sandwich I've ever eaten. A mountain of juicy, thinly sliced beef is piled on a split roll, topped with sautéed onions and peppers, then sprinkled with cheese before being run under the broiler. The mozzarella is just enough to add a touchy of gooey goodness, and the Parmesan adds a subtle savory zing that really makes the sandwich. It comes with regular potato chips and a cup of jus.
We also had a calzone ($9.95/$11.50). Pizza dough is folded around ricotta, mozzarella and your choice of toppings and baked to a golden brown. It comes with a bowl of marinara for dipping, a beautiful, bright-tasting sauce with the right amount of herbs and a kiss of garlic and run-of-the-mill potato chips. The Vegetarian calzone is our veg-head's favorite, with sautéed spinach, mushroom, tomato, onion and pepper.
Rocco's gets even better at dinner time, with the same attentive service. The pizzas, most with the house marinara and a chewy, medium-thick crust, have several named after local high schools. The toppings are fairly basic. You're not going to find artichoke hearts or eggplant here. Still, the Coronado (green peppers, mushrooms, black olives and onions) and Laurie’s Favorite (olive oil, garlic, artichokes, feta cheese, spinach and tomatoes) are my favorites. The pizza ranges from $8.25 for a small cheese to $19.95 for a large double crust pie.
For pasta, you'll find traditional dishes done well, including ravioli, Parmigiano (eggplant, chicken or veal), lasagna, Shrimp Scampi and Pasta Fra Diavolo. The Garden Tortellini ($14) combines little pillows of ricotta-stuffed pasta with spinach and tomatoes in marinara sauce. The Artichoke Primavera ($16) has fettuccine sautéed with tomatoes, artichokes and olives. The Zuppa di Clams ($17) is a dish my husband ate for a couple of years without getting tired of it. Sweet, chewy clams are served in your choice of Alfredo sauce, butter garlic sauce, or my favorite, Zesty Wine Marinara Sauce.
Be sure to check the specials board. We ordered the Pan Seared Ostrich ($19.95), and the perfectly seared medallions of tender, juicy ostrich in a cranberry sauce was delicious. While the sauce was a tad sweet for our tastes, the ostrich was meaty and robust without being gamey. The taste is surprisingly closer to red meat than to poultry. The Grilled Quail and Wild Boar Sausage ($18.95) also came with a fruity sauce, but paired raspberry with a spike of chipotle that complimented both meats perfectly. The partially deboned quail was succulent, and the sausage nicely flavored without being too spicy. The quinoa that came under both specials made me realize that I don't dislike this old-world grain. I just don't know how to cook it properly.
Rocco's Italian Restaurant -- good food, great service, and a respite from the cold where I learned I don't need to fear quinoa.